Education provider brings the latest productivity tools to more than 1 million students

As written on
After education provider Kroton merged with its largest competitor, the organization saw an opportunity to make a fresh start with its productivity tools and standardize on the solution that supported strategic and educational goals. By choosing Microsoft Office 365 over Google Apps for Work, Kroton has new tools to help students get a high-quality education, connect better, and prepare for the workforce. It also meets high security and privacy standards while maintaining the flexibility required to drive innovation.
Choosing the right productivity platform, post-merger
As a distance learning leader, Kroton understands the power of technology to support more effective education for all students. After a merger in 2014 with its key competitor, Anhanguera, Kroton became the largest private education provider in Brazil with about 1.1 million students, 726 distance education learning centers, and 130 campuses spread across all states in the country.
In 2012, Kroton adopted Microsoft Office 365 for staff use, while its students continued to use a mix of learning systems and other productivity tools including Microsoft Live@edu, which was used by approximately 120,000 students. At the time of the 2014 merger, Anhanguera students and staff were using Google Apps for Work. Kroton and Anhanguera agreed that the combined organization needed to standardize on one solution to enhance collaboration and productivity, reduce costs, and simplify management. The merger gave them an opportunity to carefully evaluate their options and determine which technology would best support their strategic goals going forward.
“We performed a very deep analysis in which we defined and analyzed all features of Google Apps for Work and Office 365,” says Mauricio Oliveira, IT Infrastructure and Technology Manager, Kroton. “We cataloged all the features we needed across categories such as collaboration, email, unified communications, and online storage, and gave a grade to each solution based on how well it met our needs. We also went through a proof of concept for both solutions, as well as a financial analysis. After three months, we had a 50-page book describing the differences between the solutions and where each one was better for our company. At the end of our extensive evaluation process, it was clear that Office 365 met all our requirements and in many cases delivered far beyond them.”
Kroton is working closely with Microsoft Services Consulting to ensure the migration goes smoothly. Beginning first with Anhanguera, 17,000 employee mailboxes were moved to Office 365. “Microsoft supported us throughout the process,” says Oliveira. “The migration took place in two weeks’ time, and we were able to move all data without any loss.” The migration of Anhanguera student accounts was performed during the academic break, and in February 2015, 320,000 students started the new year with Office 365 ready to support their success and potential for another 480,000 to adopt it in the future. The next stage will bring Kroton students to the new platform by October 2015, at which point Office 365 will be available to approximately 1.4 million students in total.
Connecting across cultures with Enterprise Social
“We often say there are many Brazils within our country,” says Oliveira. “We want to overcome cultural and regional differences by enabling teams of students to collaborate from states all over the country. We plan to deploy Yammer to help them do that in a highly secure, private social networking environment.”
For example, students are required to develop multidisciplinary end-of-term projects, which are presented to instructors as part of the evaluation process. Currently, these groups are composed of students from one location. Yammer Enterprise will make it easy for students from different states within Brazil to collaborate on these projects and benefit from a variety of perspectives and skills.
Reducing travel by meeting online
Kroton staff has been using Microsoft Lync Online for meetings, internal calls, and presence. “Thanks to Lync Online, Kroton has been able to reduce its travel budget by 30 percent,” says Oliveira. “Lync Online also reduces our need for meeting space in our new offices because people can easily take meetings from anywhere.”
The company is enthusiastic about implementing Skype for Business Online, which integrates Microsoft unified communications technology with the Skype video calling service used by millions of people worldwide. “We are actively testing Skype for Business Online now among our 20-person infrastructure team, including myself. We have already noticed improved call quality and reduced bandwidth consumption compared to Lync Online, which will be a major benefit when we roll it out to the entire organization,” says Oliveira.
Enhancing security and control
Kroton uses its existing Active Directory service to control policies, settings, and identity verification for Office 365. Oliveira says, “This way, we can offer single sign-on for users and propagate all policies to Office 365 cloud services automatically.”
With strict requirements to help protect student privacy, Kroton needed a solution that it could trust with sensitive personal information. “Office 365 met our stringent security and privacy terms, providing a high level of service and support directly from Microsoft,” says Oliveira. “Brazil has a dedicated Microsoft Education team, so we always have the support we need.”
Innovating for student success
Connecting students to real-world employment opportunities is a key Kroton strategy. “We have a platform that enables businesses to publish job openings, which are then automatically matched to student competencies and locations,” says Oliveira. This platform also gives Kroton valuable information about the key competencies that employers are looking for, so the education provider can tailor its offerings to match. The company plans to integrate the employment matching solution with Office 365 single sign-on so students can participate more easily.
Kroton has long been a leader in the use of technology to further student achievement, and Office 365 enables the organization to continue that tradition. “Office 365 will give our students an edge in the workplace, and it plays an integral role in our company’s plans for the future,” says Rodrigo Galindo, President of Kroton. “Bringing more than a million users together on a unified productivity platform is a major undertaking, and the close partnership and support we have from Microsoft gives us the peace of mind that we need to make it happen.”

Microsoft Office 365
The new Office provides anywhere access to your familiar Office applications—plus email, calendar, videoconferencing, and your most current documents—on almost any device, from PCs to smartphones to tablets.
For more information about Microsoft Office 365, go to: 
For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:
"At the end of our extensive evaluation process, it was clear that Office 365 met all our requirements and in many cases delivered far beyond them." - Mauricio Oliveira: IT Infrastructure and Technology Manager


Tech Sector Nonprofit Saves 79 Percent, Gains Global Market Access with Cloud Hosting

As written on
Pro Bono Net provides web-based technology services that support law firms, courts, legal aid, and individuals throughout the United States. So when some of its own, on-premises servers reached end of life, what technology did the organization choose to replace them? Windows Azure. The nonprofit reduced annual cost after payback by 79 percent, made its service faster and more reliable, and has access to a global marketplace that was previously out of its reach.

Business Needs

Companies of all sizes are turning increasingly from on-premises IT infrastructures to cloud-based services for obvious reasons: they cost less and make it possible for companies to focus on their core strengths, rather than on commodity IT maintenance. But what do the providers of those services do when they face the same choice as their customers—and should those customers care?

A case in point is Pro Bono Net, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing access to justice through innovative uses of technology and increased volunteer lawyer participation. The organization meets this mission, among other ways, through its Pro Bono Manager™ service, which boosts a law firm’s pro bono program management capacity. Operating as a secure, seamless extension of a law firm’s intranet, Pro Bono Manager integrates content from the public-interest legal community with reporting, knowledge management, and lawyer-and-case matching tools that draw on a firm’s own human resources and time keeping systems.

Pro Bono Manager is a web-based, or software-as-a-service, solution—and the low-cost and minimal management required by the law firms that adopt it has been one of its selling points. But the cloud that hosted the service was a very physical set of servers owned and managed by Pro Bono Net. When those servers reached end-of-life, Pro Bono Net faced the same choice that their customers had answered by choosing Pro Bono Manager: Should Pro Bono Net refresh its hardware installation, or migrate Pro Bono Manager to a cloud platform?

The organization had to consider the economics of its choices, as any enterprise would. But, as a service provider to others, it had additional considerations: Would a move to the cloud affect the prices, availability, reliability, and speed that Pro Bono Net offered its customers and, if so, how?


Pro Bono Net already had experience with the cloud; some of its other solutions ran on Amazon Web Services. But when it came time to migrate Pro Bono Manager, the organization chose Windows Azure, the Microsoft cloud computing platform.

One reason: Windows Azure was built from the ground up to support the same Microsoft technologies—Microsoft SharePoint Server, Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (in the cloud: Windows Azure SQL Reporting), and the Microsoft .NET Framework—that Pro Bono Net already used. Another reason: Microsoft offered Windows Azure Virtual Machines, which provided the flexibility and availability that comes from the use of virtualization technology.

Pro Bono Net used Windows Azure Virtual Machines for persistent virtualization in support of SharePoint Server, which serves as the foundation for Pro Bono Manager. If the organization had been moving between more consistent platforms—say, two virtual platforms, one managed on-premises and one in the cloud—it would have been easier to estimate cost. Going from a physical/on-premises platform to a virtual/cloud platform required some experimentation in preproduction environments, which the organization and Microsoft completed successfully.

Pro Bono Net eventually decided on a high-availability infrastructure that replicated domain controllers, front ends, application servers, and Windows Azure SQL Database instances on virtual machines. It also adopted Windows Azure availability sets to further mitigate risk and promote reliability. And as its use of Windows Azure grows, the organization expects to adopt geo-colocation features that will further increase fault tolerance and business continuity.


By using Windows Azure, Pro Bono Net gains lower cost, greater reliability, faster performance, and new business opportunities. The organization plans to move its Amazon-based sites to the Microsoft cloud platform, too.

Avoids 79 Percent Cost of On-Premises Solution

Cost was a key factor for Pro Bono Net in deciding between an on-premises and cloud-based platform for Pro Bono Manager. By choosing Windows Azure, the organization avoided a US$25,000 investment in production hardware and services, plus $8,300 in maintenance and system administration. It also avoids another $25,000 investment to replicate the environment for the sake of business continuity.

For its specific configuration on Windows Azure, Pro Bono Net spends $11,000 annually—and saves 79 percent over comparable cost for an on-premises infrastructure and support, after a 1.4-year payback period.

Uptime Rises to 3 “9s,” Users See 20 Percent Faster Loads

Pro Bono Net now pays less to support Pro Bono Manager while gaining more, particularly more reliability. Since the move to Windows
Azure, uptime for the application has increased from 99 percent to 99.9 percent. “That’s a significant increase for us,” says Alec Rosin, Consulting Engineer for Pro Bono Net. “On-premises, if we had a disaster, we could be out for a week. We don’t anticipate that happening on Windows Azure.”
Pages and reports now load about 20 percent faster on Windows Azure, creating a more natural user experience.

Gives National Organization the Tools to Go Global

Pro Bono Net expected lower cost and better service from Windows Azure. What it didn’t expect was new business opportunities—but it now has them, too. Many countries or regions require that sensitive data, including legal data, remain within their borders. Pro Bono Net, with its US-based data center, couldn’t go after this business before.
Now, using Windows Azure’s global data centers and Content Delivery Network, it can. “We can go from being a national service organization to a global service organization, by using Windows Azure,” says Adam Licht, Director of Product Management at Pro Bono Net.

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National Best Friend's Day Made Easy with Yammer

By Kelly Cronin
Today, June 8th, is National Best Friend's Day! Best friends help keep us sane with lots of laughter, endless conversation, and even a shoulder to cry on when we need one.  Being far away from your best friend can be tough on any friendship.  But, as we've all heard, distance makes the heart grow fonder.  This year, use Yammer to easily contact your best friend on the national holiday to celebrate their awesomeness.
Yammer is easily accessible from Office 365.  Every Office 365 users with a Yammer license is able to use the service from the Office 365 app launcher.  If both you and your BFF have Office 365, just click on the portal grid and select Yammer to let the reuniting of friendship begin.
Don't work in the same company? No problem.  Recently, Yammer added external groups to allow you to communicate with people outside of your own company. Just click on External Groups on the left hand column to add users.


Use the chat feature to instantly message  your friend to say, "I miss you!", or "Happy National Best Friends Day!", or attach an old picture of the two of you to let them know they're on your mind today.  With Yammer, you can instantly turn any chat into a Skype call.  So if typing to a computer isn't enough bonding for you, enjoy instant communication with a video call on Skype.
If you want to send over some pictures, videos, or other files, Yammer can do that.  Yammer has immediate access to your OneDrive, so you can find all your documents in one place and share them with ease.  Show them your new home or office or even a new outfit you want a best friend's opinion on.  As your best friend, you could never share too much.
Too busy to Skype right now?  Pencil them in for later.  With Yammer, you can quickly schedule meetings with your Outlook calendar. Now you won't have to remind yourself to call your friends back because Outlook will give you a reminder for whenever you schedule that phone call.


Yammer is the perfect way to keep in touch with old friends, especially on National Best Friend's Day.  Don't let this holiday go unnoticed; give your bestie the attention they deserve (and maybe a little more).

Learn more about Yammer >>

"We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is a best friend" - Robert Louis Stevenson


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